Saturday, April 12, 2014

2014 Germany Trip - A UNESCO Heritage @ Würzburg Residenz

Location: Würzburg, Germany

German: Residenz is German for residence, which in this case is a palace as it is a residence for the royalty

Itinerary and full experience of my visit to Germany can be accessed through the link below:

As I have come to learn in my visits, not all buildings in the UNESCO Heritage List are beautiful. They are there because of their value, not their appeal. Yet there are definitely some which are a sight to see, one which travellers would not miss for whatever reason. With Würzburg Residenz I have come to gain another insight in my travels - sometimes buildings appeal more inside than outside.

It is unfortunate that no photographs are allowed within the palace building, so I have to resort to words to describe the feelings of my visit, a task that is monumental given that the beauty I beheld was one where words failed me.

Würzburg Residenz, a UNESCO Heritage listed building, basking under the sun. On the outset, the palace of the Prince-Electors may be as impressive as those emerging from fairy tales, but its interior would charm even the most indifferent visitor.

As it was for Stift Haug (click the link to read my previous post on this Baroque church), Würzburg Residenz did not survive the ravages of World War II unharmed. What may seem like a well preserved palace was in fact a reconstruction well done.

Situated on an expanse devoid of any building except for motionless cars, the yard to the palace's front immediately direct the focus of any onlookers to the palace building. Upon exiting the road leading to it, I could feel the grandeur meant to impress upon visitors in the past. Even under the overcast sky, the golden glow of Würzburg Residenz was remarkable, its stature as a palace unmistakable.

The similarity of the palace to Palace of Versailles in Paris was rather obvious. Its main central block was flanked by two wings extending forward, forming a three sided courtyard to its front. This would be the distinctive Cour d'honneur architecture, an architectural term for the three-sided courtyard, one which immediately reminded me of its Paris counterpart.

The inner courtyard of the left wing against a blue sky that was emerging from the grey overcast before. Part of Würzburg Residenz is occupied by the University of Würzburg, whereas the museum took the rest.

The golden yellow exterior of Würzburg Residenz exuded an aura of grandeur that left its stature as a palace unmistakable.

So how did this palace began its life, and from where did it get its beauty and fame? As it was, the Prince-Bishops of Würzburg stayed originally in Fortress Marienburg, an ancient castle across the river and viewing down from a hill. In the 18th century, Johann Philipp Franz von Schönborn (1719–1724) felt the palace he moved into, a small one built in 1701 - 1704, did not suit his status. And so he began building a grand one in 1720, which became the Würzburg Residenz. But that was not how it became the way I see today. Construction was halted and restarted when the palace changed hands throughout the 18th century. Even though it was completed in 1744, its interior was still a work in progress until final touches ended in 1753.

Seeing this tall arcade is akin to seeing Würzburg Residenz. It is the marker of the Residenzplatz (Residence Square), the expansive area to the front of the palace.

Before entering Würzburg Residenz, it was unavoidable that one's focus be drawn to the fountain in front. The Franconia Fountain, created by Ferdinand von Miller the Younger in 1894, replaced the original wrought iron fence straddling across the Cour d'honneur.

I am not of architectural background, but my interest in it, especially in a historical setting prodded me to read more about what I saw within Würzburg Residenz. One of the remarkable thing about this Baroque palace was the fact that it incorporated the architectural styles from various countries. Contributing to the construction was Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt and Maximilian von Welsch in Southern German and Austrian style, Robert de Cotte and Germain Boffrand in the French style, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo of Venice in interior while Balthasar Neumann acted as its principal architect. 

Neumann's task was made monumental in trying to harmonize these different styles within the same building, his success earning him fame for eternity. His most marvellous accomplishment was the stone vault over the main staircase, which survived the air raid during World War II, securing part of the palace from certain demise.

The only shot of its interior that I managed to take before going to the ticket counter. Photography is not permitted within the halls of Würzburg Residenz, making my visit even longer as I tried my best to drink in everything and brand them into my memory. Its beauty was unparalleled, and I had see very little architecture which I would compare it against.

The grand staircase was one of the first interior structure I saw upon exiting the ticket counter. Trust me when I say that this photo can never compare against the awe I felt back then. I craned my neck along with every visitors to drink in the details, mesmerized by the frescoes, marvelling the intricate sculptures dotting the vault. Going up or down the stairs made me felt just like a royalty (image taken from Quest for Beauty).

Entering past the ticket counter, my sight was immediately guided to the main staircase (Treppenhaus), one which would fit any royalty movie perfectly. It was wide and grand, truly fit for a king. Climbing up it revealed even more awesome view of the frescoes above, vivid and lifelike. Combining two dimensional fresco painting with three dimensional stuccoes, the work of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo was just a sight for sore eyes. The more I stared the more I was convinced that the characters of his story could just pop out any time.

Another marvellous room lied before the staircase after the climb, in a first floor room dubbed The White Hall (Weisser Saal). The pristine white room was the showcase of Antonnio Bossi's work as a stuccoist, where the ceiling was adorned with curling work of arts. I found the swirls a little unnerving however, comparing them to tentacles of white. As opposed to the alabaster room, one other memorable room was the Garden Hall (Gartensaal). This was the other place apart from the staircase where everyone entered and just craned their necks where Tiepolo continued to focus our eyes heavenward with his work.

Various owners renovated and decorated the interior to suit their personality and favourite. One of the most famous room is the Green Lacquered Room, a whole room painted with a deep green that contain a sheen reminiscent of metallic paint yet not as shiny. The luminous green was created by applying the paint on silver ground, allowing an unmatched colour depth. It was one of the memorable rooms amongst others, striking me as unique and one of its kind.

Blue sky over the expansive Residenz Square in front of the palace.

I spent about 2 hours trying to get everything branded against my memory, and it was well worth the time. What I missed was one of its most previous halls, the Court Chapel (Hofkirche), where a mass was in progress at that time. It could have been one of the most heartache misses, but I must move on to explore the other part of Würzburg Residenz, the equally impressive Court Gardens behind it. And the good news is that it is free. Unfortunately it was rather drab with the winter spell.

Environment:         A UNESCO Heritage List building in the old town area
Suitable for:            History buffs, UNESCO hunters and art appreciators
Visit worthiness:   9.5/10 (make sure you plan as much time within as possible as no photos are allowed)
Historical value:        5.0/5.0 
Architectural value:  5.0/5.0
Photographic value:  4.0/5.0
Landmark value:       5.0/5.0

Entrance Fee:                 €7.50
Opening Hours:             (Apr - Oct)     9.00 a.m. - 6.00 p.m. (last admission at 6.00 p.m.)
                                              (Nov - mar) 10.00 a.m. - 4.30 p.m. (last admission at 4.00 p.m.)
                                              Closed on 1 Jan, Shrove Tuesday, 24, 25 and 31 Dec
Best Moment to Visit:  Early in the day when there are less people
Length of Visit:              1 - 2 hours (not inclusive of Court Gardens)

Contact:                    +49 (0) 931 - 355 17 - 0
Address:                   Residenzplatz 2, 97070 Würzburg, Germany

1 comment:

  1. too bad no photos allowed inside, else I can see your photos of how beautiful it is inside... :(


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